Living Weapon

Rowan Ricardo Phillips. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $23 (96p) ISBN 978-0-374-19199-3
In his dazzling third collection, Phillips (Heaven) explores social ills while celebrating poetry’s ability to provide solace and sense during times of upheaval. Two prose poems anchor the book: the first, the standout of the collection, is “1776,” in which Phillips imagines himself as a winged angel standing atop the Freedom Tower in New York City, observing the city below: “Lit streets run from it, electric arteries and veins. Manhattan’s never seemed so empty, so narrow, a pupil of a cat’s eye.” Phillips imbues the book with the divisiveness and violence of the present moment: “We are all in prison./ This is the brutal lesson of the slouching century,// Swilled like a sour stone/ Through the vein of the beast.” In “Mortality Ode,” he narrates a scene in which several police officers enter a cellphone store and browse casually. Nothing dramatic occurs, but the simple presence of the officers conveys a tension born from the speaker’s subtle understanding that the police are a threat to his safety. In “Thoughts and Prayers,” Phillips addresses the subject of gun violence directly, declaring that the refusal to take action to stop the epidemic is the real evil: “the end of endings; the death/ Of change.” Phillips’s latest is lyrical, imaginative, and steeped in a keen understanding of current events. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 01/17/2020
Release date: 02/18/2020
Genre: Poetry
Paperback - 96 pages - 978-0-374-53932-0
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